The greatest fun in living in a city where the majority of restaurants are tiny, unreplicable, and authentic is choosing to eat at a chain, which is exactly what we did for my friend Sonya's quarter-century birthday the weekend before last. She'd been craving teppanyaki for weeks but hadn't wanted to spend the money, and her birthday gave her the perfect opportunity to make her boyfriend Adam pick up the tab at Benihana. And we felt okay about it, you know, because the very first Benihana was in NYC. So shut up.
Kamran stocked up for the evening all baller-like,
and then we met Sonya, Adam, and Adam's co-workers/couple-friends Dave and Sarah at the restaurant,
Look at Adam's tongue hanging out!
where Kamran immediately filled me up with some crazy blue liquor so I'd quit talking about how much he hated the green pleated shirt Sonya and I had bought for me to wear especially for the occasion the night before. Sonya told us that in other parts of the country, the chefs–though obviously not Japanese–are forced to adopt Asian-sounding names just for show. Our chef for the evening was very not-Japanese and had the not-Japanese name Romeo, which very well could have been made up, too, but he used it to his advantage and cooked us up this very romantic rice heart:
He slid his spatula under the middle section and pushed it up and down to make the heart look like it was beating, which made all the girls' hearts flutter. He flipped shrimp into the top of his cap and threatened to flip some at me when he could see how grossed out I was by seafood, but I totally ate the ones that he grilled for us out of guilt. Kamran and I each had a Rocky's Choice, which was hibachi steak and chicken with soup, salad, vegetables and this garlic butter chicken rice that could have been a meal within itself. Sonya got a bowl of birthday ice cream on the house and offered it up to everyone, but the four of them were all, "Oh, no, we're waaaay too full for that." Kamran and I, on the other hand, were like, "Excuse me, waitress, but our meals are supposed to come with ice cream, and we want to be as fat as possible, so please bring it to us double-time."
We decided to head downtown to get Sonya drunker, and while we waited for the subway, various naughty things involving Kamran's super-sharp umbrella took place, including but not limited to what Sonya refers to as "the pimp picture",
and this, which should probably never be mentioned again:
We got to The Back Room at 11, and after taking an unmarked set of stairs down to a tunnel, walking through an alley, and taking another flight of stairs up again, we finally made it inside the place, which is shticky with Victorian speakeasy charm.
The idea is that it's still the 1920s and Prohibition is in full effect, so drinks are served in teacups and brown paper bags,
and the Asian folks aren't in internment camps yet, so everyone's merry (except Adam):
The plan was to get Dave wasted enough that he wouldn't mind going dancing, because he's not so into grinding up against strangers for reasons that DON'T MAKE ANY SENSE TO ME. But of course it was Sonya and me who got there first, as evidenced by this
which we took with the bouncer who was guarding the secret bookshelf-disguised door to the back room where owner Tim Robbins and all of his famous friends hang out. This guy in a prep school sweater kept shaking hands with the bouncer and slipping him folded bills in unknown denominations, but the bouncer kept denying him, and we kept making snide comments about him until our teacups were empty.
We got to Ruff Club (no, seriously, that's what it's called . . . !!!) at midnight, and it was their second anniversary, so there were loads of people standing in line in fishnets and white shoes. We took our place at the end, and then a kid behind us asked, "Do you guys know what this place is like?" I said, "It's worth the wait." Even though I'd never been there before. We stood for maybe ten minutes in the rain, which resulted in this super-homosexual picture of Kamran protecting Adam's glorious hair:
Sonya and I had been shopping all week so we could compete with this and this and this, but after that ten minutes, the bouncers started separating girls and boys into two different lines so the girls could go in first, and we didn't want to leave our boyfriends behind, so we ended up going to another unmarked bar. And despite the inclusion of songs by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G. and Sophie B. Hawkins, we danced and danced and danced until the sun came up. Or, you know, until, like, 2 a.m.